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20 to See in 2020

Not all of these movies may find a release date in 2020, given Hollywood’s propensity for shunting around in the schedules along with the vagaries of post-production. Of my 21 to See in 2019, there’s still Fonzo, Benedetta, You Should Have Left, Boss Level and the scared-from-its-alloted-date The Hunt yet to see the light of day. I’ve re-included The French Dispatch here, however. I've yet to see Serenity and The Dead Don’t Die. Of the rest, none were wholly rewarding. Netflix gave us some disappointments, both low profile (Velvet Buzzsaw, In the Shadow of the Moon) and high (The Irishman), and a number of blockbusters underwhelmed to a greater or lesser extent (Captain Marvel, Spider-Man: Far From Home, Terminator: Dark Fate, Gemini Man, Star Wars: The Rise of the Skywalker). Others (Knives Out, Once Upon a Time in… Hollywood, John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum) were interesting but flawed. Even the more potentially out there (Joker, Us, Glass, Rocketman) couldn’t match the anticipation they engendered.

20. The Invisible Man/ The Woman in the Window

Is she crazy? Why no, she simply has an invisible ex-husband stalking her/ the authorities thinking the woman claiming to live next door is the one she saw nastily offed the night before. Both of these might well be let-downs, but they both they both also look to have satisfyingly trad thriller potential.

Some have not unreasonably suggested The Invisible Man should have been called something else – The Toxic Masculine Avenger? – since the protagonist isn’t the title character at all, and given that it bears more similarities, at first glance, to Paul Verhoeven’s atypically generic Hollow Man. Nevertheless, Leigh Whannell recently delivered an effectively messed-up SF B-movie in Upgrade and so gets the benefit of the doubt here. Certainly, a scaled-back approach to Universal’s monster club can’t be a bad thing after The Mummy debacle.


Then there’s The Woman in the Window, based on AJ Finn’s novel, which finds the patchy Joe Wright directing Amy Adams, Gary Oldman (in classic Oldman accent mode), Jennifer Jason Leigh and Julianne Moore. This one underwent third act reshoots after negative – some say disastrous – test screenings. Which often means someone died audiences really didn’t want to die, or a key reveal was a big let-down. The reshoots may well do nothing for it, but the trailer’s an undeniably effective one, even if it leaves you wondering if it has only rote places to go once Amy finds out the whys and wherefores of why her head’s being messed with. (28 Feb/ 15 May)



19. Wonder Woman 1984

Patty Jenkins’ 2017 first Wonder Woman outing was perhaps understandably over praised, with all the attention on its ground-breaking status as a female-led superhero movie (at least, most ground-breaking since Elektra or Catwoman) and its flagrant divergence from the then grimdark DCU house style. As successful as certain elements were, Allan Heinberg’s screenplay was a bit of a bodge, particularly when it came to the limp, generic denouement.

I wasn’t particularly expectant with regard to the sequel, then, but if the trailer is any indication, set to a driving version of New Order’s Blue Monday, Jenkins may have been allowed to make the movie the first one thought it could be. There are question marks over whether Kristen Wiig’s villain will be up to snuff (not least in realisation of her Cheetah persona) and Chris Pine’s presence isn’t so much annoying– he’s never less than an engaging performer – as symptomatic of how irritating it is that no one stays dead anymore. (5 Jun)


18. Macbeth

In and of itself, I have no particular passion to see another Macbeth adaptation, particularly when the last one (Justin Kurzel’s) was so underwhelming. But this stands out simply by virtue of Joel Coen flying solo from brother Ethan.

I suspect that’s down to wife Frances McDormand whispering poison in his ear in order to persuade him to direct her as Lady Macbeth. She’ll be opposite Denzel Washington as Macbeth (very much an older skewing couple, but that could be interesting, if unlikely in terms of the play itself) with Brendan Gleeson as Duncan. Can Shakespeare be Coen-esque?

17. Kate

Effects man turned director Cedric Nicolas-Troyan didn’t exactly wow anyone with the Huntsman sequel (Rupert Sanders’ work on the original was much more impressive, which may bode well for the forthcoming Foundation TV series), but there are several reasons why this Netflix actioner could be worth a look.

For one thing, it’s produced by John Wick’s David Leitch. Or perhaps I should say, Atomic Blonde’s David Leitch, since Kate also concerns a kick-ass female assassin, in a Tokyo-set ticking clock scenario; she’s been poisoned and has 24 hours to live (this may or may not turn out to be banner year for gender-diverse spies, since there’s also Blake Lively in The Rhythm Section, a rare non-Bond excursion for Eon).

Another reason to see it is lead Mary Elizabeth Winstead, who can do no wrong. Aside from pairing off with Ewan McGregor, perhaps. And showing up in Birds of Prey. Leitch is also producing actioner Nobody, written by Wick’s Derek Kolstad, but I’ll need more convincing of that one since it’s directed by Hardcore Henry’s Ilya Naishuller.

16. The Eternals

It never does to underestimate the MCU, so the prospects for third-tier The Eternals – superhumans created along with the less aesthetically pleasing Deviants by the Celestials’ Chariots of the Gods-esque experiments on humanity – might look iffy. But the same was said about Guardians of the Galaxy. And Captain Marvel, not exactly primo Marvel, just made a billion.

Guardians of the Galaxy may be the main touchstone here, in terms of an expectation that this won’t look like every other Kevin Feige production-line effort (for evidence of which, see the trailer for 2020’s other MCU effort Black Widow). Reportedly, director Chloe Zhao is bringing the stylishness, even if she might seem, with her record for naturalistic personal dramas, as left-field a choice – cynics would say easy-to-dictate-to-by-the-producer – as Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck did for Captain Marvel. Who delivered one of the most impersonal MCU entries (and that’s saying something).

The Eternals also looks like a break in terms of screenwriters, however, with Ryan and Matthew K Firpo doing the honours. The cast, which includes Angelina Jolie, Richard Madden, Sama Hayek and a steroidally buffed up Kumail Najiani, doesn’t hold a particular wow factor, I have to admit, but this is the first the MCU venture to offer a “Just what are they going to make of this?” factor since James Gunn’s brand of humour got an airing. (6 Nov)

15. Morbius

Much as I enjoyed Tom Hardy’s performance(s), I’m not wholly persuaded by the choice of Andy Serkis to direct Venom 2 (Oct 2). Or that more symbiote vs symbiote CGI is going to be especially engaging. On paper, this similarly positioned antagonist/protagonist effort resulting from Sony’s attempts to fashion their own self-supporting Spidey-verse is more interesting.

Scientist turned vampire (of sorts) Morbius carries with him a number of question marks, such as whether, after his widely reviled turn as the Joker in Suicide Squad, anyone will want to see Jared Leto in the lead role of a comic book property. And while he can be an engaging actor (as most recently evidenced in Blade Runner 2049), is the collaboration with a good but unexceptional director (Daniel Espinosa, of Safe House and Life) a recipe for something that lacks sufficient must-see factor?

I’m still intrigued, though. For better of worse, screenwriters Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless have the right sensibility (Dracula Untold, The Last Witch Hunter, Netflix’s Lost in Space, the gloriously bug-nuts crazy Gods of Egypt). The worst this could be is bland, but hopefully Sony took note of why audiences responded to Venom and are steering it accordingly. (31 Jul)

14. The Last Duel

Curious that Sir Ridders appears to be coming full circle with this first sign of life since the – for him – positively idle hiatus since his two 2017 releases (it’s his longest gap between projects since the 90s). Will The Last Duel, based on Eric Jafer’s fact-based book, be sufficiently distinct from The Duellists that it justifies the similar-at-a-glance subject matter?

It does rather sound like it, given the dramatic weight of the background to the last official duel fought in France between a knight and a squire, and the potential consequences, depending on the victor. The screenplay has been co-written by Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, with Nicole Holofcener (Can You Ever Forgive Me?), and stars both bosom buddies alongside Adam Driver.

Scott’s choices of projects, and the results, have been typically erratic over the last few years, and his fully-fledged period pieces (Exodus: Gods and Kings, Robin Hood) outright disappointments, but he still does, occasionally churn out something interesting. And if this isn’t, maybe his Raised by Wolves SF series for HBO Max will be, in which two androids are raising human children on an alien planet. Scott directed the first two episodes. (25 Dec)

13. The Old Guard

Netflix comics adaptation concerning a group of immortal soldiers from different eras (e.g. ancient Greece, the Crusades) who work as mercenaries across the ages. Director Gina Prince-Bythewood was previously attached to Sony’s Spidey-verse Silver & Black – which subsequent to Venom has separated into distinct Silver Sable and Black Cat projects – and has enlisted Charlize Theron as her lead (playing Andromache, of Scythia). There’s also support from Chiwetel Ejiofor and Matthias Schoenaerts.

Greg Rucka adapted his own (co-created) comic book, so The Old Guard ought to be at least staying true to the original concept. It also has to be acknowledged that Theron seems to have a good grasp of who to work with when it comes to successfully realised action fare (Mad Max: Fury Road, Atomic Blonde).

12. Paul Thomas Anderson Project 2020

I didn’t care much for PTA’s first few films. It was only really with There Will Be Blood that I began to appreciate his talents, subsequently solidified by The Master and especially Phantom Thread, And, yes, even the less universally lauded Inherent Vice.

So I don’t need much persuasion to get on board for this, about which little is known other than it’s set in the 70s, in the San Fernando Valley (where PTA grew up and during the same period) and concerns a high school student and successful child actor. One assumes there’ll be a dose of autobiography in there, even if it’s just background colour. One also assumes Johnny Greenwood is set to furnish the score. Given it starts production next spring, this one may or may not get a release next year.

11. No Time To Die

Daniel Craig’s last time out as bruiser Bond, after numerous hiccups along the way including a potentially different take from Danny Boyle that was nixed by a nervous Eon and Craig injuring himself yet again because he is, after all, over the hill and out to pasture. We’re talking Sir Rog in Moonraker here. If only No Time to Die can be nearly that classy.

Bond 25’s going to look good, courtesy of Cary Fukunaga and cinematographer Linus Sandgren, which is good news, but whatever the additions the director and Phoebe Waller-Bridge have made to the screenplay, it still comes via a generic Neal Purvis and Robert Wade Bond template.

Which means we get a disfigured villain (Rami Malek) and a returning Blofeld (Christoph Waltz). And more of the Craig era’s tedious continuity, this time per Lea Seydoux’s backstory sparking the plot. I’m not desperately hopeful this one will be any better than the last three in that regard, but I’m confident Fukanaga is likely to make the seams a lot less noticeable than Sam Mendes could. (2 Apr)


10. The Gentlemen

Guy Ritchie back in London gangster mode, always a comfortable – I hesitate to say cosy – milieu, although this time he’s apparently holding the camera down a bit. The Gentlemen revolves around Matthew McConaughey’s marijuana baron (talk about typecasting) looking to step down with skulduggerous consequences.

Charlie Hunnam, Henry Golding, Michelle Dockery, Eddie Marsan, Jeremy Strong, Colin Farrell, a scene-stealing Hugh Grant and, er, Dean Gaffney co-star. I had considered putting The King’s Man on this list, from Ritchie’s old producer Matthew Vaughn, but Vaughn seems to have embedded himself in a self-grown franchise of increasingly dubious merit, and it’s difficult to get enthused for his prequel after his Kingsman sequel so underwhelmed. Ritchie may not be aiming as high, but he’s much more likely to deliver. (1 Jan)


9. I’m Thinking of Ending Things

Kaufman’s adaptation of Iain Reid’s 2016 novel is another Netflix offering, a psychological thriller/horror in which Jessie Buckley accompanies Jesse Plemons, visiting his parents on a remote farm and…

Those who know the novel cite it as being very much in keeping with Kaufman’s oeuvre. And Kaufman can, to be frank, be a bit too much at times (for some reason, I’m still resisting Synecdoche, New York, and I’ve even seen Human Nature). But it will be interesting to see him tackle something with a pronounced genre skew to it, rather than the usual straightforward (for him) twisted black-comedy ruminations. Also starring Toni Collette and David Thewlis.

It’s just possible that SF offering Chaos Walking will get a 2020 release, the Doug Liman/ Tom Holland/ Daisy Ridley possible write-off that underwent extensive reshoots by, or in concert with, Fede Alvarez. Kaufman is one of six credited writers on that one.

8. The Trial of the Chicago 7

There are a few films of this list that have been in development forever and a day, and this is one such. Aaron Sorkin – now also the director – wrote the screenplay for The Trial of the Chicago 7 in 2007, an account of the 1968 incitement-to-riot charges against Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, Tom Hayden (of the Port Huron Statement, more recently cited by Jeff Lebowski) and er, four others.

At various points, Spielberg, Ben Stiller and Paul Greengrass were attached as directors, until Sorkin managed to revive the project. Perhaps most shockingly, Sacha Baron Cohen was in the Hoffman role at its genesis, and he’s back in it now. Also starring Eddie Redmayne, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Mark Rylance, Michael Keaton and William Hurt. I really liked Sorkin’s directorial debut Molly’s Game, so hopefully he will do the material justice. (25 Sep)

7. Blonde

It’s probably just a coincidence that two of Mindhunter's directors should also be directing biopics relating to classical Hollywood for Netflix for 2020. I’m sure Netflix thinks, not unreasonably, that such cred can’t do its Oscar prospects any harm. Andrew Dominik has been trying to get Blonde made for a number of years, and it promises to be a less than typical biopic, based as it is on Joyce Carol Oates’ 2000 bestseller – previously turned into a 2001 mini-series – that takes on Monroe’s interior life and steers clear of explicitly naming any names (while also suggesting she was assassinated). 

Dominik has said it has “very little dialogue in it… I don’t think there’s a scene in Blonde that’s longer than two pages”. With anyone else, I might be sceptical, but Dominik hasn’t dropped the ball yet as a filmmaker. Ana de Armas is Monroe, and the cast includes Adrien Brody as Arthur Miller and Bobby Cannavale as Joe DiMaggio.

6. Mank

A bit of a labour of love for Fincher, who what with having such a good relationship with Netflix, has been able to put into production his late father Jack’s screenplay charting Herman J Mankiewicz’s experiences writing Citizen Kane.

This has immediately sparked debate over whether he will be pursuing the controversial (as in, discredited by many) approach Pauline Kael adopted when she impugned Orson Welles’ co-credit on the screenplay. Whatever the specifics of Fincher’s take, his meticulous eye for detail is sure to make this compelling, intricate and fascinating (notably he was once attached to Theodore Roszak’s Flicker, which also nurses a Kane obsession).

Shooting in black and white, Fincher has assembled a cast headed by Gary Oldman in the title role, with Tom Burke (as Welles), Amanda Seyfried, Lily Collins and the director’s first reunion with Charles Dance since Alien³.  And shockingly, there’s not a serial killer in sight.

5. Dune

This really does seem to be asking for trouble on Legendary and Warner’s part, filming the first half of the first novel in Frank Herbert’s Dune series and hoping it makes sufficient loot to warrant further instalments. I don’t think anyone really thinks it will, and most simultaneously wonder why it didn’t bypass the big screen entirely, and instead strike a pose as the next Game of Thrones (particularly with the baffling announcement of a Dune: Sisterhood spin-off show, to be shown on HBO Max).

Denis Villeneuve is a talented director – and Blade Runner 2049 and, to a slightly lesser extent, Arrival show he knows his science fiction – but does he have the necessary instincts to make Dune what it needs to be: a commercially very successful film? If Dune cost in the ballpark one expects, it will need to make half a billion to even consider a second instalment.

Villeneuve has also assembled a cast who will service the material rather than attract audiences in their own right – the likes of Oscar Isaac, Josh Brolin and Rebecca Ferguson – and as his lead indie darling Timothée Chalamet, a dicey prospect in that, regardless of his talents, he’s unproven in a key area. Can he make audiences like him? I’m suspecting a very good film, as far as it goes, which probably won’t be nearly far enough to warrant a continuation. (18 Dec)

4. Bill and Ted Face the Music

It’s slightly bewildering and not entirely believable that this is actually happening. Unlike many a long-time coming sequel that suddenly gets greenlit – Coming 2 America, say – Bill and Ted Face the Music has been in development (rather than going to) hell for a good, or bad, decade, with Galaxy Quest director – and eventual director – Dean Parisot attached for the majority of that time.

Financing proved tricky, and during this period original writers Ed Solomon and Chris Matheson honed the screenplay, which requires the dopey duo to write a song to save the universe, aided by their daughters. Not only are Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter back, but so is William Sadler as the Grim Reaper (and latterly a Wyld Stallyons band member), Amy Stotch as Missy and Hal Landon Jr as Ted’s father. These things are never a dead cert – Solomon and Matheson’s previous co-credit was Imagine That – but everyone involved seems so dedicated to making this a worthy trilogy capper and getting it right, it definitely deserves to be most excellent. (21 Aug)

3. The French Dispatch

This will be the longest Anderson acolytes have had to wait for a new live-action film since he first embarked on a career in cinema, the last being the high of The Grand Budapest Hotel. His previous feature, animation Isle of Dogs, was no slouch, of course, but it seems Anderson isn’t resting on his own particular brand of laurels, since The French Dispatch is a musical – his Everyone Says I love You?

It is also, apparently, a World War II France-set love letter to journalists, which sounds characteristically idiosyncratic. Anderson repertory company regulars and semi-regulars Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton, Saoirse Ronan, Willem Dafoe, Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody, Jason Schwarzman, Bob Balaban, Lea Seydoux, Mathieu Almaric and Fisher Stevens are joined by Benicio del Toro, Kate Winslet, Christoph Waltz and the ubiquitous Timothée Chalamet.

2. Last Night in Soho

Anyone wondering what an Edgar Wright “psychological horror” would look like will, it seems, get their answer with his sixth (seventh if you count A Fistful of Fingers) film, co-written with Penny Dreadful’s, and 1917’s, Krysty Wilson-Cairns. The premise, or the degree to which Wright has revealed anything of it, sounds a little on the Outlander side, with Thomasin McKenzie somehow experiencing the 1960s via a connection to Anya Taylor-Joy’s swinging London character.

Throw in Repulsion and Don’t Look Now as influences, and it sounds vaguely as if he’s going where Tarantino recently went (a nostalgic, halcyon era but with a dark twist) by way of Ben Wheatley. But I can’t believe Wright will be ditching the humour completely. Also featuring those who were actually there – Diana Rigg, Terence Stamp, Rita Tushingham – and one Matt Smith.

I haven’t always been persuaded by Wright’s premises – Baby Driver – or even by his movies on first try – Scott Pilgrim vs. the World – but I’ve only actually felt let down by his much-vaunted return to the Cornettoes well (The World’s End), so his seeking out new territory, however replete with pop culture doodles it inevitably is, is surely a good thing. (20 Sept)

1. Tenet

I wouldn’t count myself as a Christopher Nolan fanboy, but that doesn’t mean I don’t look forward to discovering whatever he has in store next. The trailer for Tenet is already eliciting speculation that it may be set in the same universe as Inception, as well as the slightly less enticing suggestion that it’s a more pseudish take on 6 Underground (protagonists “die” in order to be put to work saving the world from bad guys).

The backwards/forwards time travel of Tenet – reflected in its title – suggests Nolan has come up with very specific rules for his chrononauts, so enabling a series of typically dazzling physical effects, as the heroes move forwards through backwards travelling events in very geographically linear fashion (as seen in the trailer on seas and motorways and – presumably – towerblocks).

Naturally, the cast are very much there to service the spectacle – when Nolan’s tried for a bit more substance in that regard in the past, the results have tended to the variable – a mixture of old hands including Kenneth Branagh (doing a Branson by the look of it), Martin Donovan and talisman Michael Caine juxtaposed with new faces John David Washington, Robert Pattinson and Elizabeth Debicki. I wasn’t bowled over by the director’s last couple of films, but this looks to be exactly what he does best. And it could well be the espionage movie of the year to boot. (17 Jul)


Agree? Disagree? Mildly or vehemently? Let me know in the comments below.

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